New Day in Amsterdam, 10 Do's and Dont's by Bailey, Citizen of the World

It's Saturday so I am taking a break from the Cook the Books Contest rollout to share Bailey Alexander 10 Do's and Don'ts on Amsterdam.

Bailey is a recent transplant to the city so her impressions are still fresh. She is well read and traveled and lands wherever her tech work takes her.

Her previous city was Paris.

Here come Bailey's 10 Do's and Don'ts of Amsterdam.

1) Do rent a bike, they're relatively cheap and rental shops are easy enough to locate

     Don't walk in the bike lanes, the cyclists own this town and know it.  Also, the English like to drink and they choose to drink here. Hen night is popular and their mode of transport is bicycles; be aware.

Bikesamsterdam

2)  Do enjoy the tolerance and buy a joint or two

      Don't buy drugs from off the street, you may be sorry.

3)  Do enjoy walking through the Red Light district, the windows, the sex shops, anything goes, its crazy insane.

     Don't take pictures of the prostitutes in the windows, if you do, like I did, you'll get an angry knock from another window along the street or worse yet, a pimp will have 'a word'.

4)  Do enjoy the beer culture

     Don't expect good food and wine, they're here but hard to find.

5)  Do walk along the canals, there are more here than Venice, per kilometer. And they're just lovely.

      Don't expect a boat canal trip to provide the same perspective, you can't see much, but they can be almost as much fun.



Amsterdamcanal

6)   Do go into the coffee shops and explore your options, with a sensible approach of course.

      Don't confuse coffee shops with cafe's, the former offers pot, the latter offers only a pot of coffee.

7)  Do enjoy the environs, it's a sweet and relatively safe place to tour, live and work.

     Don't take your mind off your wallet and possessions, especially as trams to the station and airport are packed with vandals exploiting tired tourists.

8)  Don't expect the fashion and style that exists in the culture capitals that are Paris and Rome, I've lived in both and the Dutch appear to  gravitate more towards German and Nordic dress sense.
 
     Do expect English to be spoken everywhere, Amsterdam is a very international town; most residents, bi-lingual, speaking Dutch and a particular brand known as Dunglish.

9)  Do enjoy the pea soup and pancakes, both are exceptional and available on just about every other street.

     Don't expect much beyond those two Dutch specialties, far better to explore the excellent selection of otherly fare like Indonesian and Thai for your gastronomic.

Bistroamsterdam

10)  Do ask your Dutch friends for their favorite do's and don'ts

        Don't expect them to assist with your list.

Keep up with her musings via Bailey Alexander: The Europhile, mostly culture and travel.

Previously: Kiss a Girafe, Hop on a Matatu in Nairobi, Green City in the Sun 10 Do's and Don'ts

(Photos, All rights reserved by Bailey Alexander/The Europhile)


Kiss a Girafe, Hop on a Matatu in Nairobi, Green City in the Sun 10 Do's and Don'ts

I cannot thank world traveler Ulrike Reinhard enough for putting Africa on the 10 Do's and Don'ts map.

I first shared Mac Jordan guide to Accra on January 22.

Today Mark Kaigwa whose digital fingerprints are all over the Kenyan scene from digital art to start ups and innovation introduces us to his hometown of Nairobi.

Enjoy the ride!

10 Do's and Don'ts in Nairobi

Affectionately known as the Green City in the Sun, Nairobi's typically bathed in the sun's warm gaze with minimal humidity and a calm breeze at a high of 26°.

Nairobi can be a great city to navigate and discover, and it never hurts to have a local's perspective on what to do. Mark Kaigwa gives us his perspective on what to do and what not to do in Nairobi.

Nightskynairobi

DO's

1. Do Take A Safari

Sometimes it's easy for a Nairobian to forget that we're one of the only cities in the world to have a National Park in the city limits. The Nairobi National Park is an amazing sight to see. Fresh off your business meeting with 2 hours to kill before you need to be at the airport? Why not head to the National Park and see some lions on the prowl or watch a herd of buffalo by sunset. There's several types of safaris to take, whether wildlife, cultural, adventure, sport, scenic and specialist. Nairobi's known as Africa's safari capital for good reason.

Wildlifeskyline

2. Do Visit a "Maasai Market"

On any given day of the week, somewhere in Nairobi, there's an open air market of  hand-crafted crafts commonly referred to as a "Maasai Market". It's recommended you visit with a local to do the bargaining for you, but you can be sure to find some good finds here, whether it's jewellery, clothing, carvings, statuettes or beadwork, you'll find a little piece of Nairobi to take back home with you.

Masaai market

3. Do Prepare for The Traffic aka The Jam

Rush-hour in Nairobi can be manic and the ride from the airport will most likely give you a baptism-by-fire as a passenger immersed in Nairobi's traffic. It's best to travel between rush-hour times, avoiding 7-9AM, 1-2PM and 5-7PM. You can be stuck in traffic quite a while if you hit it, from 30 minutes to a grim 2-3 hours. Local radio alerts on which roads tend to be helpful.

4. Do Try Nyama Choma!

Nyama Choma is the typical Kenyan barbeque. Usually consisting of goat meat served with other delicious treats such as ugali (maizemeal) and kachumbari (salsa) this is a must-try. Do try the various meat products of the barbeque as well as authentic Kenyan dishes. Immerse yourself! Do consult locally for a great place to have nyama-choma and visit with a local for best experience.

5. Down for some game? Try The Carnivore

One of Nairobi's attractions is The Carnivore Restaurant, where you can try an array of wild game meat in a buffet-style where the meats keep coming until you say it stop. Delicacies include zebra, gazelle, wildebeeste, crocodile, camel among  other seasonal treats.

6. Do Ask About The Need-To-Know Laws

Recently there's been some changes to the municipal laws e.g. don't cross the road while speaking on your cellphone (unless on handsfree), no leaning or sitting on ledges and no serving drinks after 11 PM (this one's currently being debated) get yourself a refresher by asking anyone from your cab driver to any local what bunch of city-centre related rules that you need to know.

7. Do Keep Your Valuables With You

It's common to visit coffee shops, where there's free Wi-Fi and take a bathroom break leaving your valuables in plain sight. For this, in Nairobi it's better safe than sorry.

8. Do Get On Top of The Kenya International Conference Centre

One of the best place to view get a 360 degree view of the city of Nairobi in all its sun-bathed spleandour. It's one smart way to watch the sun set and if the fog's not too heavy you can see all across the outskirts of the city, from the slums to the National Park; entry can cost Ksh. 400/200 ($5/$2.50)

9. Do Have Kenyan Tea (and Coffee)

Take my word for it, Kenyans have some great tea, ask for a cup to be prepared in typical Kenyan fashion with milk (or without, if that's your preference) and relish the great flavour and aroma of one of nature's most beautiful gifts. You won't regret it! And while you're at it, sample some of the world's best cofee. Some noteworthy coffee houses include the Nairobi Java House, Dormans Coffee and Pete's Coffee.

10. Do Kiss A Giraffe!

The Giraffe Centre breeds the endangered Rothschild Giraffe and has education and conservation programmes for children as well as as plenty of information on giraffes. Part of their program involves feeding the giraffes and you have the option to kiss a giraffe in the process. With the way our planet's going, this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

DON'Ts

1. Don't Forget To Ask The Price of the Taxi/Cab Before You Depart

When it comes to driving and commuting across the city you've got options, and if you choose the most stable of these options - the taxi cab, it's good to keep a few things in mind. Always agree a price upfront and proceed to pay after. Cabs here don't typically operate meters and set prices as per distance to be travelled, the earlier you can hear the price stated (and in some cases bargain) the better. They're not cheap, but can make life easier and safer. If possible ask a local for a referral or at your hotel.

2. Don't Expect Perfect Timing

"Fast food" has a different meaning here, add a few minutes. If you've got an casual appointment ask if they mean Kenyan time which can typically mean a small delay of 5-15 minutes to longer. Also expect people to give you their projected place e.g.

3. Don't Go To The Malls

You came all this way to stick to the malls? Really? Sure you can do better than that. There's plenty of places to explore in good old Nairobi. If you must, however, The Westgate Mall, Sarit Center, Yaya Centre and The Junction are good malls to shop and relax at.

4. Don't Forget To Carry Change, It Helps Drive a Bargain!

Try and break down your money at the Forex into smaller denominations. The largest being the Ksh. 1,000 note. If you're going shopping and negotiating it usually pays to have change. Bargaining tactic: "I only have Ksh. 500, so the maximum I can pay for it is Ksh. 300."

5. Don't Forget to Ride A Matatu (at least once)

This is debatable, but it's hard to argue that matatus (minivan taxis) aren't part of the lifeblood of the city. Loved and loathed, they are a reflection of popular culture and the Kenyan experience. I'd recommend that if looking for a rush, you take a ride on a matatu (there's routes that are more lively than others) in the company of a local companion. I insist you have a local companion if you'd like to check this off your bucket list. Take care of your pockets and personal items on the trip.

Matatu

6. Don't Carry Large Amounts of Cash. Join The Mobile Money Revolution!

With the mobile money revolution going on in Kenya, you may as well experience it. Instead of carrying cash everywhere you go, you could opt to balance cash, credit and mobile money. If you're in town for more than a week, try register a SIM card and see how convenient and useful it will prove to be for goods at local supermarkets, stores, cab fare and other informal payments.

7. Don't Forget You Might Need to Pay for a Visa Upon Arrival

Some visitors have to pay for a visa upon entry at the airport or border crossing. A single entry visa costs $50 and is valid for 3 months. A transit visa is $20. You can also pay in Euros and English Pounds. If travelling through Kenya on a connecting flight and don't leave the airport, you don't need a visa. A single entry visa is useful though because you're good for the whole East African region: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

8. Don't Expect Amazing Internet Speeds

...unless you really need them. In which case you ought to get yourself a portable 3G modem (currently only from Safaricom), where 300MB will set you back Ksh. 1,000 (approx $12.50). Overall, there's fibre and there are hundreds of cyber cafes across the city but it can pay to have a backup dongle in case. The 3G signal has proven to be reliable in the city limits and in major towns in Kenya. If you would like to opt for a cyber cafe, you'll find some of the fastest cyber cafe's in the city centre at Norwich Union House, opposite the Hilton Hotel. Expensive ones tend to be in the big shopping malls and in the Westlands area though they're more exclusive and less crowded (but not necessarily faster).

9. Don't Smoke on the Streets

A friend of mine recently faced some trouble for this one and it's certainly not obvious. Smoking on the streets of Nairobi's city centre is against the law, except in designated smoking zones. If anything, take your cue from other smokers.

10. Don't Forget To Ask About Roadworks

It's useful if planning extensive road travel that you ask about roadworks if you're up and about the city and its environs. There's been some great construction but it can affect your timing by as little as a few minutes to as much as several hours or make you miss your engagement altogether.

Overall like a buddy of mine declares on his famous blog, M.I.L.O.N.A.R.E - "Me I Love Nairobi Regardless" (Kenyans have a penchant for starting sentences by saying "me, I") not to mention a habit of replying to the greeting “hello” by saying “fine.” Those are just some of the peculiarities that make Kenyans who they are.

It's a beautiful city with its quirks but a fantastic and memorable place to visit, and lucky for me, I call it home.

Let's see what the next 10 Do's and Don'ts will be.

Previously: Hole of Rome, St Theresa in Ecstasy, Eat at Sant Anna, Rome 10 Do's and Don'ts

(* Some of the photos featured by Kenyan photographer Mutua Matheka. See his full photography series atop KICC here)


Hole of Rome, St Theresa in Ecstasy, Eat at Sant Anna, Rome 10 Do's and Don'ts

Instead of looking at Rome through the lenses of your camera, artist and craft person, Cynthia Korzekwa, a Texas born Roman resident suggests you open your eyes to the real city.

Rome 10 Do's and Don'ts:

DO.

1.  See The Hole of Rome, an ornate  keyhole through which you can see the Vatican Dome framed by a tunnel of trees. Located at the Priory of the Knights of Malta (Aventino/Aventine Hill), the optical effect of the hole was created by Piranesi, obsessed with Masonic symbolism .

2.  If the weather is nice, take a rickshaw ride at Villa Borghese. While there, visit the museum, once the home of Paolina Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister.  

3.  See Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s "St. Theresa in Ecstacy" (near Piazza Repubblica).  Bernini was fascinated with the idea of mystical marriage and hieros gamos as seen in his work. See, too, Bernini’s "Beata Ludovica" (San Francesca a Ripa church, Trastevere) who has the same estatic face as does Theresa.

 4.  Take a close look at the Italian minted euro coins.  The 10 cent coin depicts Botticelli’s Venus, the 20 cent coin depicts Umberto Boccioni ‘s "Unique Forms of Continuity in Space" and the 50 cent coin shows the figure of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback.

5.  Check out In Rome Now, an online guide to Rome in English.

Korzekwa01

Don’t. 

1.  Don’t take taxis unless you have to. At the airport, never accept rides from unofficial taxis.  Stand in the appropriate line and wait or take the shuttle from Fiumicino airport to Termini, the main train station in Rome. The taxi from the airport to the center of town costs about E45 whereas the shuttle costs E7 per person. In town, use the bus or metro.  For routes, check the ATAC website (city buses for route ino). Try taking Tram #3 (ticket E1) for a cheap tour. The tram passes by the Colosseum. 

2.  Ladies, don’t wear high heels if you have to walk in the center of town…you risk losing a heel in the gaps in between the sanpietrini (the cubes of stone used to pave the roads).

3.  Don’t eat at blatantly tourist-oriented restaurants. If you are in the area of Campo dei Fiori, try eating at Sant Anna’s

4.  Don’t drink cappuccino after meals. It’s something only tourists do plus milk after eating may give you a yucky feeling.

5.  Don’t take photos of “Roman guards” at the Colosseum unless you are willing to pay.

Korzekwa02

Fashionistas might want to save time in their schedule for one of Cynthia Korzekwa Roman Workshops like Re-Vestiti (Re-Dress Yourself) where you learn how to Remake-Remodel old clothes into new outfits.

(* Photos courtesy of Cynthia: Altare della patria and San Lorenzo outdoor market)

Shibamata Walk, Sushi at Kampashi, Don't be Late, Tokyo Do's and Don'ts by Eisei Saito

Since 10 Do's and Don'ts started late November 2010, we've covered cities in Europe, US, Africa, Australia, South America.

Asia had eluded me (Bankgok is in the works) until Eisei Saito agreed to contribute.

Eisei was born in Tokyo, spent one year in Vancouver as an exchange student and so far has traveled to 25 countries. His travels inspired him to create JapanTwo so that new visitors to Japan and expats alike don't get lost in translation and instead have a meaningful experience during their stay. They welcome your feedback as they don't want JapanTwo to be a one way conversation.

Eisei Saito takes us on a tour of Tokyo with his 10 Do’s and Don’ts.

Do’s

1.    Take a walk in Shibamata.  You can feel good old Showa period atmosphere in Shibamata, a calm historical place, in Tokyo.  This place is famous for Taishakuten, an old temple, and setting of “Torasan”, one of Japan’s most famous TV drama series.  Also recommended, a walk along river next to the city and taking a rowing boat.

Shibamata

2.    Watch Sakura.  If you visit Japan in late March or early April, you must go see Sakura, a cherry blossom event.  Not only watching it, be part of Ohanami as well.  Ohanami is a party under these flowers.  Drink alcohol with friends and watch some beautiful flowers.  It’s just wonderful time.

3.    Eat sushi at Kampachi.  Kampachi is a sushi restaurant in Okachimachi.  Kampachi’s master makes unsurpassed quality sushi.  He changes rice volume and amount of wasabi depending on fish to enhance taste.  Not only taste but the atmosphere of the store is unique and kind.  Lunch time will not be so expensive.  Don’t go to tourist place sushi restaurant in Tsukiji, but do go Kampachi.

Sushi

4.    Go to Seta Onsen.  Seta Onsen, or Seta hotsprings resort is placed near Futako-Tamagawa station, the station only 11 minutes away from Shibuya.  They have both inside and outside bath so that you can feel seasons’ air.  Also, men and women mixed bath (must wear swimsuit) is good.

Seta Onsen

5.    Run/walk in Tokyo.  There are many running tracks in Tokyo such as Imperial Palace circumference.  Any city has both sides of modern and classic face.  To really discover Tokyo, use your feet.

6.    Shop at Akihabara.  Akihabara is electric and anime town.  Even if you don’t have any interest to either of these, it is fun to see the people coming to this place.  If you do have interest, I would say this area is the best place to see electric products.

7.    Watch fireworks festival.  If you visit Japan in August, there will be fireworks festival every weekends.  First fireworks in the world started in Edo period.  It was a memorial service for people who died from plague, which means Japan’s fireworks festival has more than 100 years of history.  Watch tasteful beauty in the sky in oriental atmosphere.

8.    Drink Yamato Tea at Park Hyatt Tokyo.  The hotel that was setting for movie “Lost in Translation”.  Hotel has one of the best services in the world.  The night view of Tokyo from the hotel’s lounge is brilliant!  Only this hotel in Tokyo serves best green tea of 2010, Yamato Green Tea, which won award from Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. 

9.    Do take a look at Shibuya 109.  Inside of building is a whole new world.  If you are a girl, you can spend 3,4 hours so easy for shopping.  The place is always full house, people who hunt for latest fashions.

10.  Take tour of Tsukiji Tuna Auction Show.  You need to be an early bird for this as it starts before sunrise.  Fish market of Tsukiji is pretty old; however, the place is sophisticated.

Tsukiji

Don’ts

1.  Don’t take a train during rush hour.  Weekday mornings 8am to 9am, weekday nights 5pm to 6pm and 10pm to 12pm and Friday nights 11pm to 12pm.  Yamanote line is horrible.  It is better to stay away until you understand when and how people take the trains.

2.    Don’t be late at everything.  Japanese (except Okinawans) are very strict about the time.  If you have arranged to meet with Japanese, don’t be late.  They come 10 minutes prior of the time.

3.    Don’t pay tip at the restaurant.  You don’t have pay tip.  If you get a bill, it is final bill.  And, it is uncommon to pay at the table in Japanese restaurant.  Bring your bill to cashier.

4.    Don’t be too confident about Tokyo’s public peace.  Tokyo is safer than any of other capitals in the world.  But that does not mean you can walk around anywhere in midnight. 

5.    Don’t hesitate to ask Japanese.  Most of people in Tokyo came from outside of Tokyo.  They may have experienced same trouble with you.  They look busy or not kind but actually they are not.  They are just shy.

6.    Don’t buy full price tickets in Japan.  For foreign tourist, there are special transportation tickets such as “Japan Rail Pass” that allow you as many rides as you want in a week for 40,000 yen. 

Ticket

 7.    Don’t use Softbank service for your mobile phone in Tokyo metropolitan area, you won't be able to make a phone call or access to internet. 

8.    Don’t wear fancy shoes.  Even using public transportations, you will walk a lot in Tokyo.  Especially for girls, don’t ever think to wear high heeled shoes until you get used to Tokyo.

9.    Don’t miss Tokyo’s fantastic foods.  Tokyo is a gourmet city.  There are plenty of great foods.  Wagyu, cake, chocolate, etc.  Even snacks in convenience store are outstanding. 

10.  Don’t miss any of the 10 Dos. 

 Previously: Strasbourg from Hanssen and Gretel to Winstubs, Eleonora's 10 Do's and Don'ts

(* All photos copyright Eisei Saito, used by permission)


Strasbourg from Hanssen and Gretel to Winstubs, Eleonora's 10 Do's and Don'ts

After Sao Paulo by Nana Soma we are not trying to give your body a thermal shock by following up with Strasbourg.

It just happened that Eleonora's 10 Do's and Don'ts were ready to serve when others are still tweaked.

Eleonora starts by telling us about her itinerary.

"In two words, I come from the land of the sun, Italy and to be more precise, a beautiful place named Tuscany celebrated in many books and movies. I live in the region of good living: Alsace, the city of Strasbourg which turns into a fairy land during the Christmas holidays.

From these two sources, I inherited a strong taste for culinary arts and recipes. More recently, I became passionate about another field, photography. An appealing display brings out your appetite...

My daily creations and recollections can be found on Au fil de mes rêves d'amour et de recettes de cuisine (French only)."

Oh Strasbourg

Called Strassburg on the other side of the Rhine.I live in this city for more than 7 years. It is the 7th largest urban area in France. Imagine when she gets all dressed up around the Christmas holidays, she is even more gorgeous. The city attracts visitors year round with peaks in the summer months and at the end of the year when its magic brings back childhood memories. Since 1570, Strasbourg is famous for its Christmas Market set near the cathedral, market is worth visiting. As soon as you reach the cathedral's plaza, you can see it in all its majesty. You look at the sky and feel uplifted by the view.

Cathédrale_Strasbourg_blog_Eléonora

As time goes by, I get to know more and more of its hidden treasures. I like to walk down pedestrian streets and discover small boutiques. One that keeps awing me is the Maison of Hanssen and Gretel. The window display by itself is a slice of Alsatian magic. We love the gingerbread from Mireille Oster. Pastries are royal and I admire the kougloff at Chez Naegel. You walk past Maison Kanmmerzell, the oldest building in Strasbourg with a view of the cathedral, a combination hotel and traditional restaurant in an historic building.

Hanssen_blog_Eléonora

For restaurants, you will be spoiled for choice. I recommend Le Clou with its baeckeoffe. Another 'winstub' is Chez Yvonne  and its traditional choucroute and typical decor. We might continue our walking exploration by heading towards 'Petite France' neighborhood where you can see the 'Bateaux Mouches' passing by. The Maison du Tanneur is another traditional restaurant which you will find adorning many postcards with of course the 'Cigogne' (Stork).

A place that will surprise you when you visit is Cave Historique des Hospices de Strasbourg. It still displays wines from 1472 vintage. The cellar is home to a wine press from 1727 and a huge barrel from 1881 with a 26080 liters's capacity.  Alsace has a reputation for great wines like Gewurztraminer, Muscat d'Alsace, Riesling, Sylvaner, Pinot gris andC rémant d’Alsace (gor bubbly) that will be the perfect pairings for local gastronomy.

Pedestrian

Say cheese and Muster dominates the scene under its orange robe, perfect with a slice of fresh bread.

Any visit in the Alsatian capital ends in a Winstub where wine or beer washes down a Flammekueche or flambee tart with onions, creme fraiche, lardons.

Winstub_Strasbourg_blog_Eléonora

Its history and location made Strasbourg the natural place for European institutions from Parliament to European Council and Human Rights building.

All Do's, no Don'ts in Eleonora's book.

(* all pictures copyright Eleonora Zarbo)


Nana Soma on her Sao Paulo from Praca Benedito Calixto to Alto de Pinheiros

After 10 Do's and Don'ts first forray into Africa with Accra by Mac Jordan we cross the Atlantic and head to Brazil for first 10 Do's and Don'ts in South America thanks to Nana Soma. Amongst other things she blogs for Bag for Life whose models are inspired by recycling combined with images from Copacabana to the Atlantic Forest.

Here's Nana Soma's take on Sao Paulo.

SÃO PAULO

Do’s

1. Do go to the flea market at Praça Benedito Calixto on a Saturday morning. It’s a great program especially if you like objects from previous decades at special prices. Design, fashion and art shops are also located on both sides of this square, and the restaurant Consulado Mineiro serves the best food from Minas Gerais, a state close to São Paulo.

2. Do you feel like dancing? Voodoohop (below) is the hypest party nowadays! On the contrary of many expensive clubs around the city, this once a week party happens at any place around the old center of Sao Paulo and costs only 10 reais or, if you go by bike, it’s priceless.

Voodoohop

3. Do eat the coxinha de frango (a Brazilian snack made of wheat flour and chicken) or the best ham sandwich of Sao Paulo at Estadão , a 24 hour bar.

4. Do well to go to Mercado Municipal , one of the most traditional gourmet points of the city and do eat the mortadela sandwich.

5. Do walk on Avenida Paulista , one of the most important postcards of the city. This great avenue has lots of must see and go places to spend the mornings or afternoons or even the nights. To name some of them: MASP (Sao Paulo Museum of Art); Casa das Rosas, a space where art exhibitions, small concerts, launch of books and a library take place; Conjunto Nacional, a commercial building which hosts, for examples, , one of the greatest bookstore of Brazil; Reserva Cultural, one of many cinemas located at this avenue and its surrondings; the building of FIESP/SESI, where art exhibitions and plays are for free; Parque do Triannon and, much more not only in this avenue but also in these streets, Rua Augusta, da Consolação, Bela Cintra, Haddock Lobo and Alameda Santos.

Paulista

6. Do spend a day at Parque do Ibirapuera. Located in the urban area, there are many attractions in this famous park. Go for a walk or rent a bike; visit its museums, such as MAM (Museum of Modern Art), Museu Afro Brasil, Pavilhão da Bienal, OCA, among others, but check if exhibitions are taking place; do a picnic for lunch; visit the Japanese garden or the Planetarium and, end the day watching a concert at the Auditório Ibirapuera.

Ibira_at_night

7. Go for a happy-hour with friends at Vila Madalena. This residential neighborhood is best known for its bars where music, food, drinks and flirts take place during the night between the young universitaries and professionals. And if you visit “Vila Madá” (as it’s called) during the daylight, you’ll find fashion, art and design studios and stores which worth the price.

8. Do go for a ride on a bike at Minhocão, an elevated expressway located near to Santa Cecília subway or at this address Avenida Amaral Gurgel on Sundays.

9. Do visit Vila Maria Zélia , the first workers' village in Brazil and today is a popular location for recordings of dramas, soap operas, advertisements and television news material for the reason of being a heavily wooded and quiet has its European architecture houses, warehouses and schools of the early twentieth century.

10. Do well to visit Pinacoteca do Estado , a museum where there are art exhibitions and a collection of national and international paintings. Go there on Saturdays so you don’t pay. Located next to Parque da Luz, there is a coffee house inside the museum where you can take your café or eat pão de queijo (a Brazilian cheese bread) at the outside tables which go to this park. The Museu da Língua Portuguesa (Museum of the Portuguese Language), the Estação da Luz, an old train station, the Sala São Paulo, a concert hall with one of the best acoustics in the world and Rua José Paulino, a street of popular and cheap clothes stores are the highlights near to Pinacoteca.

Don’ts

1. Don’t take the bus or the subway or taxi in the rush hour, especially between 5 – 8 pm. The traffic is just terrible!

2. Don’t miss out the SESC and CCSP (Cultural Center of Sao Paulo) programs which include many cultural events with popular prices.

3. Don’t keep your windows car open or your bag in the passenger seat of the car, there’s a great chance for thieves on a motorcycle to steal it.

4. Do never go to Rua 25 de março and Brás. Both places sell objects and clothing items for a cheap price, are ugly, full of salesclerk screaming in your ears and illegal sellers pushing their items to you on the streets and just impossible to walk.

5. Don’t contribute for the lack of education at the transit.

6. Don’t throw your garbage away on the streets. Otherwise, they will land into the rivers contributing for the caotic floods.

7. Don’t miss out the Mostra Internacional de Cinema (Internacional Film Festival).

8. Don’t arrive just in time at the theaters, you can miss the play.

9. Don’t pass through the city without visiting the MIS (Museum of Image and Sound), MuBE (Brazilian Museum of Sculpture) and Museu do Ipiranga, a museum with a great collection of objects, furmitures and artworks mostly related to the Independence of Brazil.

10. Don’t miss out the sunset at the end of an afternoon at Praça Por do Sol (below), a square located at theneighborhood of Alto de Pinheiros. Many people believe this is the best place to see this nature spectacle in Sao Paulo.

Pinheiros

Tudo bem

You can keep up with Nana via For A Conscious Clothing, her bilingual (Portuguese, English) site.

(* Voodoohop image from Voodoohop site)


It Takes a Mac Jordan to Navigate Accra, Ghana, 10 Do's and Don't 1st African Stop

When I stumbled on WE_ Africa magazine, Ulrike Reinhard made me realize that I had left a whole continent out of the 10 Do's and Don'ts equation.

I asked her to help me remedy to that.

Today you see the first instalment with Mac-Jordan D. Degadjor guide to Accra, Ghana.

10 Do’s & Don’ts of Accra

Are you coming to Ghana’s capital city of Accra for the first time? There are a lot of stuffs you can do and others you can’t/shouldn’t do. First off, I’m going to start with the DON’Ts.

10 Things Not Worth Doing in Accra.

1.       Don’t ever take taxis at the Kotoka Int’l Airport upon arrival. They are a big rip-off. Before your trip to Accra, make sure to arrange for your host or a trusted local to pick you up from the airport.

2.       Don’t ever expose your bank or credit card details in public or even at the hotels. Make sure, you’ve exchange your foreign notes into the Ghanaian Cedis and don’t carry a lot of cash on you too.

3.       Don’t ever wear bikini or very revealing clothes in Accra. The Ghanaian culture on dressing doesn’t approve of such types of dressing. Make sure, all sensitive areas are covered and you dress decent always. No mini-skirts.

4.       Don’t shake hands with the left hand. Also, don’t eat with the left hand. Always use the right hand when dealing with people and showing directions.

5.       Don’t be a fan of taxis in general whiles staying in Accra rather, opt for the cheapest mode of transport which is; Tro-tro (shared buses plying majors town routes within Accra). They are very cheap and economical but can get very uncomfortable sometimes. Don’t sit closer to the bus collector (mate) ever.

6.       Don’t walk on the streets of Accra and its environs alone after 7pm. Make sure, you’re in the company of others; at least 3-4.

7.       Don’t ever go to the beach to swim on Tuesdays as it is forbidden and a big taboo.

8.       Traffic in Accra is like a snail with a limp. If you’re supposed to be at a place in an hour; please leave 2hrs before otherwise, you’ll curse yourself always. Traffic in Accra is actually a “part-time” job for most commuters.

9.       Don’t ever buy/purchase anything from mobile phones to gadgets from hand dealers around Kwame Nkrumah Circle or Accra Central. You’ll be ripped off heavily and your item might be either a stone or an empty wooden box.

10.   Don’t ever try to argue with the Ghanaian policeman when it comes to road/traffic issues. Never ever do that. Just oblige and “tip” him/her GHc1.00; sorry it’s been increased to GHc2.00.

11.   Don’t go shopping for foodstuffs, groceries or garments all by yourself. Make sure, you’re accompanied by a local otherwise, the prices of the stuffs will be doubled (in case you’re a white person)

10 Things Worth Doing in Accra.

1.       Do visit the Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah’s Memorial Park and learn a lot about Ghana’s first President.

2.       Do visit the Ghana National Museum which is located in the heart of Accra and is featured in all Ghana travel magazines. 

3.       A Must Visit: Visit Ghana’s only premier University; University of Ghana located in Legon. Very beautiful landscape and buildings.

Tawalabeach

4.       Do visit the clean and sunny beaches in Accra after rainy season. I’ll recommend Bojo Beach, Tawala Beach (above), Ada Beach Sajuna Beach Club and La Pleasure Beach (always be in the company of trusted folks whiles here at night)

5.       Do visit the Independence Arch and also the Independence Square (Black Star Square).

Independence_Arch

6.       Do well to visit the Ohene Gyan Sport Stadium (Accra Sports Stadium) when there’s a local premiere league match going on.

7.       Do try our sumptuous Ghanaian meals with their accompanying soups especially; Fufu with Light/Palm/Pea-nut soup (below), Banku with tilapia and shitor (local black sauce), Kenkey & red pepper and fried fish and Waakye. Places to visit: Asanka Locals (Madina & Osu), Bush Canteen (East-Legon), Osu Night Market (Osu), Agbaa Maame (Tema) & Auntie Muni’s joint (Labone)

Ghana-fufu-090926

8.       When it comes to Night Life; there are a couple of places to visit for good music, networking and enjoying a great evening. In no other; +233 Jazz Bar (Kanda), Reggie Rockstones Office (Cantonments), Rhapsodys of Reality (Accra Mall), European styled pub: Bella Roma (Oxford Street, Osu), Citizen Kofi’s Sky Bar ( a great view of Accra at night), Celsbridge - best grilled & spicy chicken joint (Labone)

9.       Visit the fishing community of Jamestown and also get to the top of the old light house.

10.   Lastly, Go African artifacts shopping at Art Center located in the heart of Accra.

It takes a Mac-Jordan to navigate Accra.


Next Stop Heidelberg, 10 Do's and Don'ts Return Thanks to Ulrike

I've been following Ulrike Reinhard for a while on Twitter in a peripheral way and 2 weeks or so ago one of her projects WE_africa grabbed my attention.

It made me realize that while sketching a map of sorts for 10 Do's and Don'ts, I had left a whole continent out of the equation.

I asked Ulrike if she could help me correct that glaring omission and you should see the results of her efforts soon.

Being greedy I asked her on top if she would mind offering her own 10 Do's and Don'ts on Heidelberg, the city where she lives.

She agreed. She puts the Don'ts first which makes sense in a way. Here it is.

Don'ts

1. Do not eat at crappy tourist restaurants in the centre of town.
2. Absolutely no-go Restaurant: Roter Ochsen, Hauptstrasse (old part of the city)
3. Leave "quarter chic" Neuenheim alone!
4. Head to Neckarwiese (a park by the river Neckar) on a sunny, hot day unless you want to be crushed!
5. Don't visit while the students are gone!
6. Forget about a boat trip on the Neckar.
7. No shopping in Heidelberg! Sorry!
8. Don't understand Heidelberg as a typical German student town - it is Disneyland.
9. Even though Cafe Viktoria on Main Street is tempting you, please resist!
10. Don't expect change!

Do's

1. Visit Karlstorbahnhof (below) or Halle02 for cultural events.

Karlstorbahnhof_Heidelberg_02

2. Enjoy a coffee at Hörnchen, Heumarkt (old part of the city)
3. Best White Russians in town at "Orange", Ingrimstrasse (old part of the city)
4. For those who don't enjoy "Sonderbar's" music, walk a few steps down and step into "Weinloch" - a real unique experience!
5. Have a dinner at Herrenmühle, especially in summertime when you can sit in the backyard  - best food in town for reasonable prices, Hauptstrasse (old part of the city)
6. Best Indie music at Sonderbar, Untere Strasse (old part of the city)
7. Take the cog railroad up to Königstuhl and walk downhill via Posselslust and then Neckargemünd.
8. If you want to explore suburbs, choose either the old part of Rohrbach or Handschuhsheim.
9. A must-see and visit: Heidelberger Zuckerladen, Plöck (for candy lovers) in old part of the city.

Philosophers way
10. Walk the famous Philosophenweg (Philosophers Way, view from it above) and enjoy the incredible light.

Next Stop?

We shall see on January 22, 2011.


Try Yabbies, Don't Forget Sunscreen on Summer Christmas Holiday in Sydney

The last 10 Do's and Don'ts was London by Ms Marmite Lover. I thought that with winter gripping Europe and part of the US of A, some of you might like to taste a little sunshine from the Southern Hemisphere.

With that in mind I asked long distance penpal, Australian food writer Carli Ratcliff for suggestions. She shares her 10 Dos and Donts of a summer Christmas holiday in Sydney. She was actually very generous and came up with twenty, 10 of each.

Here they come.

Postingcardssydney

Do's:

  1. Embrace the season, and by that I mean high summer. The sun is shining, the beaches are full and there is no use channeling the white Christmases of your childhood. Throw on your bikini or your speedos and head for the sand. Lie in the sun and swim in the ocean on Christmas Day, something you can’t do comfortably in the Northern Hemisphere this time of year. 1A Do wear sunscreen at all times. That hole in the ozone layer is directly above us, so when people say you'll burn, they ain't kidding! Apply 30+SPF, nothing less, you will go home with a tan without even trying, I guarantee it.
  2. Eat Australian on the big day. Most Australian’s celebrate the season with a family lunch on Christmas Day. From mangoes and cherries to cherax destuctor aka yabbies (baby Australian crayfish) seasonal wonders abound. Kangaroo and emu are also available, most Aussies skip these meats (in favour of turkey, ham and pork) and they don’t know what they are missing, the local’s reluctance is due, in part, to the fact that both animals are on the nation’s coat of arms. However oysters, scallops and rock lobsters are not, and all make for a magnificent meal come lunchtime on December 25.
  3. Eat a traditional dessert with a twist. Our links with Britain and the Empire’s traditional Christmas fare have not waned in the dessert department in more than 200 years. Christmas pudding is what you’ll find on most Australian tables for dessert. You’d think necessity would be the master of invention in this heat, but no, a slight tweak at best in most homes, where you might come across an ice cream Christmas pudding, which is exactly as it sounds, vanilla ice cream moulded into the shape of a pudding dotted with dried fruits and nuts and more than a splash of brandy. If you are really lucky you might be the guest of an inventive Australian host (like Rebecca Varidel at Inside Cuisine) who comes up with something suitably celebratory and acclimatized.
  4. Buy local. If you are visiting, and a keen gift giver, buy something unique that the recipient can enjoy here, a surfing lesson on Manly Beach, tickets to Sydney Theatre Company’s Uncle Vanya (Cate Blanchett is the Artistic Director and stars alongside Hugo Weaving and Golden Globe nominee Jacki Weaver)  or a gift certificate for dinner at Guillaume at Bennelong inside one of Jørn Utzon’s famous sails of the Sydney Opera House, arrive in time for sunset around 7pm.
  5. Play cricket, if you must. Two things tend to happen once the lunch feast is over on Christmas Day, either people nod off, usually upright in an air-conditioned living room, or they head into the backyard with bat and ball for a game of cricket, beer in hand.
  6. Take a ferry ride, across Pittwater, past bushland and private beaches to Sydney’s Central Coast for a long lazy lunch at Bells Killcare. They’ll collect you from the ferry wharf and drive you to the property where chef Stefano Manfredi will treat you to the best seasonal produce Sydney and its surrounds has to offer, some of it straight out of Bells kitchen garden.
  7. Eat leftovers. December 26 is a public holiday known as Boxing Day (also observed in some European and African countries) a name that came about for any number of reasons, some say it refers to the metal boxes the Romans placed outside churches to collect money for the needy, others believe it harks back to Victorian England when wealthy landowners gave their servants the day off and a box of leftovers to go with it. Whatever the etymology, in recent years lobby group Planet Ark has dubbed December 26 ‘National Leftovers Day,’ in response to the amount of food Australian’s waste (more than 3.3 million tonnes each year) and it's only sensible to follow suit, refashion leftovers into a pie, a pasta dish or a soup Chef Frank Cammora, of Melbourne’s acclaimed MoVida restaurant suggests this pastry recipe
  8. Watch cricket, if you must. It's not for me, but if I said that out loud, I'd be dragged out and shot. Cricket is a national obsession and it doesn't get much bigger than the Boxing Day Test  even the national broadcaster ABC (our equivalent on the BBC) airs only cricket coverage! Hell on wheels for sporting philistines like me, especially if you're on a road trip. And most of Australia are.  
  9. Leave early, very early if you are driving up or down the coast or to any beach on December 26. It's the unofficial first day of Australia's summer holidays, schools aren't in until January 31 so coast roads around the country are crammed with frustrated parents, hot whinging children and eskys filled with food, surfboards are strapped to the roof and bikes are clinging to the back, and we sit, bumper to bumper until we get to 'our' beach, on Boxing Day the journey always takes two to three times longer than it would any other day of the year.
  10. Stay for the fireworks. On Boxing Day, the Sydney to Hobart super yacht race begins in the harbour, the Sydney Festival fills the city with exciting events and come New Year’s Eve there's not a patch of grass spare on the harbour foreshore, as picnickers and revelers spread their rugs and flip open their eskys for a night by the harbour. Arrive early, and by early I mean before midday, the very keen camp out the night before to secure the best vantage point for the fireworks that are spread along the harbour on five barges, so everyone gets a squiz, while the grand finale is always focused on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Christmastable

Don'ts:

  1. Feel you need to stand on ceremony. Despite our reputation Australian’s tend to be polite, so if you are invited to someone’s home for Christmas lunch, they’ll more than likely work to make you feel comfortable, which means they’ll try and cook ‘your’ food. If you accept an invitation ask if you can have an ‘Australian’ Christmas, every family is different so I am not sure what you’ll get, but you will, at the very least, leave with an insight into how one family deals (or not) with tradition and heat.
  2. Adorn your car with antlers and a red nose. This is the first year Australian’s have decorated their vehicles with furry antlers and plush-toy red noses. It has caused considerable scratching of heads, ‘why would anyone do this?’ 
  3. Head to Bondi Beach on Christmas Day unless you want to be crushed. Bondi Beach is the venue for ‘Backpackers Christmas’ where every visiting backpacker descends on the country’s most famous beach. The scene once included lots of beer, more than a few arrests and plenty of overworked lifeguards fishing drunk backpackers ‘out of the drink’ (sea). However the local council and police have declared the area an alcohol free zone in recent years so it’s now a dry party.
  4. Ask the cab driver to turn the cricket off the radio. You will likely be thrown out of the taxi.
  5. Drink and swim, drive or sail a boat. Random breath testing is taken very seriously in Sydney, particularly at this time of year. Police units are set up beside the city’s roads to randomly test blood alcohol limits. If you are on the water you are not immune, Sydney’s water police also randomly breath test the skippers of pleasure craft across the harbour.
  6. Don't plan on catching a taxi home from the New Year’s Eve fireworks, take your walking shoes. As mentioned the harbour foreshore is packed and come 12.30am everyone wants to head home. Your chances of hailing a cab are less than slim, so best to wear your walking shoes.
  7. Show up at a restaurant on Christmas Day and expect to be able to eat. Best to book ahead. Like cities the world over, most Sydney restaurants have set menus on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve and some are closed Boxing Day, so reservations for lunch or dinner throughout Christmas week will ensure you don’t go hungry.
  8. Celebrate ‘Christmas in July’. This is an appalling recent phenomena best ignored by visitors. Each July when the mercury drops to a chilly, say 10 degrees Celsius, Christmas-fanatics use the excuse to have a second Christmas, complete with fake snow (there is real snow in Australia in July but you have to drive an awfully long way to get to it) and an un-seasonal Christmas tree, and sit down to a table groaning under the weight of roast meats which they wash down with mulled wine, usually beside a roaring fire.
  9. Forget your sunscreen (as mentioned in the ‘Do’s’) or your mosquito repellent. At dusk the mossies descend and they are often ferocious, prevention is better than cure, red dots, like red skin, are very unattractive.
  10. Visit in any time other than summer. The city is at its best at this time of year. In January everyone is on holidays so the CBD is a ghost town, which means public transport is less crowded, you can get a dinner reservation, theatre tickets or a cab without too much trouble, the sun is shining, the harbour’s sparkling and Sydneysiders are smiling, because they don’t have to go to work.

Sydneyharbour

Christmas Holiday in the sun!

Christmassydney

Want more, Carli Ratcliff serves weekly slices of the Australian food scene on Hunter Gatherer (SBS Food). That's how we connected.

(* All photos by Carli, from Posting Holiday Cards to Setting Table for Christmas Lunch, the Sydney Harbour, last Christmas Day in Sydney)


Pub Quizzes, Curries, Corsets, Just Don't Expect A Good Shower, Ms Marmite Lover London

After De Young Yes, Starbucks No in San Francisco with David Patterson we take a cross-atlantic flight and ask Ms Marmite Lover her 10 Do's and Don'ts (actually 11) for London.

There she goes.

London is without a doubt the best city in the world. So there! And I've travelled everywhere, lived in Los Angeles and Paris. I always return to London. It may be filthy, expensive, cold, grey and sprawling, but it's also a powerhouse of culture and innovation and a repository of history. 

Bigben
Do's

1) History: where to start? This city is chocker with the past, from Jack the Ripper walks in the East End to famous architecture.
I recommend visiting museums and galleries, most of them are free. My faves: the Victoria and Albert museum (great gift shop!) and the Tate Modern.
Do find out about London's occult side past and present: visit Treadwell's bookshop for books or interesting talks (I went to one by ex Blondie guitarist Gary Valentine who has become an occult writer) or visit Cross Bones burial ground where there is a monthly vigil on the 23rd, honouring the outcast dead, mostly prostitutes and paupers in the 19th century.

2) Kinky sex: the French call homosexuality 'the English disease', we've always had our fair share of stately homos. Even straight English men come across as camp! Soho in the centre of London was historically a red light district, it's now Boystown UK. I highly recommend the fascinating talk and walk by  around Soho given by David Thompson every Sunday at 2pm meeting outside the Admiral Duncan pub on Old Compton st. 
Wanna get kinkier? 
Try a club like Torture Garden. It's S & M lite with beautiful women and men striking poses, looking like escapees from the set of Blade Runner/ Interview with the Vampire. There is a dress code to get in, but girls, to hell with going to gym and trying to nip in your waist via your own muscles, buy a corset at Blackrose in Camden market), just like in the old days, which does all the work for you!

Davidthompson

3) Curry: Britain has some of the best curry houses in the world, better than India even. In London, curry hot spots include Southall (on the Piccadilly line) like little India; Drummond Street round the back of Euston (I like Zeen, bit posher) and finally the East End. Brick Lane in the East End used to have many good curry houses, it's now a bit touristy but a real authentic gem Tayyabs is near Whitechapel. Not only is it the best naan breads, rice, tandoori meats you'll ever eat but it's also hard to spend more than £15 a head.Order the tinda masala (squash curry) and tell them I sent you.Best to book, there are always queues.

Morroccan stall  

4) Green Spaces: despite the pollution and grey skies of London (Woody Allen says he loves the light here) we have some of the best parks in the world. Unlike Paris, with their regimented planting and 'do not sit on the grass' notices, our green spaces are wilder, more organically designed and, a plus in this rather sprawling city, large enough to feel like you are actually in the countryside. My favourite is Hampstead Heath,  where you can find edible mushrooms, watch bunny rabbits hop, and see the odd celebrity taking their Sunday walk. 

5) Food: visit Borough market, but best on Thursday and Fridays. The weekends are ridiculously crowded. There are plenty of tastings to be had, as well as hot food. If you love cheese you must check out Neal's Yard Dairy. Britain now has over 1,200 cheeses, beating the boast that De Gaulle made about France: "How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?". Other recommendations: Broadway market on Saturdays near London Fields and Portobello Road. 
Also do visit a supper club;  London is now the world centre for supper clubs, pop ups and home restaurants. This is the only way for a tourist to eat in Londoner's homes. I have listed a whole slew of them on my Supperclub Fan Group or visit the Underground Restaurant, my own Supper Club.

6) Pub Quizzes: the British love a quiz, and most local pubs have a quiz night. My favourite and possibly the toughest is Tuesday nights at the Prince of Wales in Highgate. It's a historic pub filled with spirits, both ghostly and alcoholic located in a historic and pretty 'village' of London. But there are plenty of others: check out the list at  Pub Quiz Help. Join a team if you can and share a few pints with the locals. There are usually some tricky questions about US geography so you'll be very popular.

Don'ts

1) Don't move slowly in the centre of town. We are busy, you are in the way. Don't stand in front of the tube barriers pondering your next move, you will likely get mowed down, but naturally with a very British and apologetic 'terribly sorry'.

2) Do not eat at crappy tourist restaurants in the centre of town. We do good food, despite our reputation, but if you eat at Angus steak house, Wetherspoons pubs or other chain restaurants, you will only be disappointed. Sometimes it's inevitable, being a tourist is exhausting and you inevitably end up flopping in the nearest place where you can have a sit down and a cup of tea, but don't judge us by those places.

3) Do not boast: about your country, your white and even teeth, or your salary. The British way is to be modest. If saying something good about yourself or the United States is unavoidable, merely mutter 'it's not bad', that's code for "it's bloody brilliant".

4) Don't mention God or religion. We are a post Christian nation, nobody overtly believes in God. If you do, we will think you are a nutter.

5) Don't expect a good shower: our water pressure is not particularly powerful compared to US style power showers. Also, we often take baths. Remember it's not a warm country so washing is not very high up the list of priorities.

Hope to see you back next Saturday or Sunday for another helping of 10 Do's and Don'ts in a different locale.

(* all photos by Kerstin Rogers, Typical HP sauce with Big Ben on it and Tower bridge in the background, David Thompson who gives the Soho talk, Morroccan street stall in Portobello market)